U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Thomas Accused of Failing to Report $686K in Wife’s Income

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A liberal watchdog group says Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report on financial disclosure forms more than $686,000 in income his wife earned while working for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Common Cause analyzed the Heritage Foundation’s tax records and learned that the organization paid Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, $686,589 between 2003 and 2007, the Los Angeles Times reports. Common Cause also cites published reports indicating Virginia Thomas earned a salary in 2009 from the conservative group she founded, Liberty Central. Justice Thomas indicated his spouse earned no income for the years in question.

Common Cause says in a press release that the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (PDF) requires justices and other federal officials to report spousal income. The group is reporting the alleged rule violation to the U.S. Judicial Conference.

Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet, an expert on judicial ethics, told the Times that failing to report a spouse’s income “is not a crime of any sort, but there is a potential civil penalty” for violating the rules.

An error in the forms is usually addressed by an amended filing, the story says.

Updated coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Justice Thomas Cites ‘Misunderstanding of the Filing Instructions’ for Disclosure Error”

Updated at 7 p.m. to clarify that the income was not reported on financial disclosure forms. Updated on Jan. 25 to refer to new story on Thomas’ amended disclosure forms.

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